How to Support People With Disabilities in the Workplace
It’s imperative for employers of all sizes and across all sectors to cultivate a culture of diversity and inclusivity while making employees, clients, partners and guests feel comfortable and safe. Diversity initiatives and programmes should consider many different groups of people, including those who live with disabilities.
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics on 17th May, the number of people with disabilities within the UK workforce has risen by 1.3 million since 2017. This increase exceeds the government’s original goal of having 1 million new employees with disabilities join the workforce by approximately 30%. Furthermore, progress is also aheard of schedule, as officials’ original deadline for this aspiration was not until 2027.
Still, while the significant increase in employees with disabilities has been encouraging, there are many steps for employers to consider to be as accomodating as possible. Consider the following actions:
- Avoid ableist language. Employers should establish formal policies to ensure supervisors and colleagues to not use terminology that could be offensive to employees with disabilities. These efforts must go beyond well-known slurs and labels while also addressing adjectives or phrases that may sometimes be common but could also be hurtful or inappropriate.
- Make adjustments. Employees with disabilities may need to conduct tasks using different methods. They may also require some accomodation in certain situations. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may require alternate routes to manoeuvre through the workplace. Employers should also ensure social events and celebrations are accessible to all workers.
- Allow employers to be open or private. Different disabilities may require various levels of confidentiality or disclosure. Yet, it’s imperative for employees with disabilities to be allowed to make decisions regarding how much information they wish to disclose and to whom.
- Handle issues immediately. Inappropriate remarks, insensitive comments, and any type of workplace bullying must be addressed and dealt with promptly. It’s important to realise that employees with disabilities may feel social pressure to accept rude behaviour in order to gain acceptance. Do not allow this type of unhealthy work environment to form.
The Rising Issue of Age Discimination
Age discrimination, or ageism, is a growing workplace issue that must be taken seriously. Ageism invovles an employee or applicant being treated unfairly due to their age. Under the Equality Act 2010, people of all ages are legally protected from discrimination.
Beyong legal obligations, employers who fail to act appropriately against age discrimination may face a variety of other potential consequences. According to 2019-20 government statistics, the average age discrimination payout following an employment tribunal was “26,612. Moreover, if employers feel undervalues, it may cause retention issues. A survey by recruitment company WM People fround that 61% of older employees did not feel their employers properly valued their life experiences. In addition, 52% reported having seen less experienced colleagues being promoted over them.
Given the severity of issues caused by age discrimination, it’s clearly necessary for employers to take the subject seriously. Consider the following aspects of the workplace:
- Organisational culture – Assess current company culture, practices and policies, and eliminate any outdated assumptions regarding older workers. Establish a multigenerational culture that avoids stereotypes related to age and makes employees of all backgrounds feel welcome.
- Recruitment practices – Train recruiters and interviewers to avoid making ageist assumptions. Adjust application processes to avoid having candidates provide age-related information, such as date of birth or graduation year. When using interview panels, include members from a variety of age groups.
- Diversity training – Initiatives and discussions about diversity and inclusion should include age. Implementing proper training and education regarding age discrimination is necessary to fully foster an inclusive work environment.
- Response measures – It’s critical for organisations to demonstrate their position against ageism by responding to any complaints swiftly and seriouisly. Investigations should include interviews with all parties and a thorough review of any other relevant evidence.
- Relevant cover – Employment practices liability insurance can provide necessary protection for organisations in the event of an ageism allegation. By having the right policy, employer liability can be limited.
According to a report by Legal & General Retail Retirement and the Centre of Economics and Business Research, the percentage of people aged 50 or older currently in the UK workforce has increased from 31% in 1992 to 42% in 2020. This figure is expected to continue to rise and reach 47% by 2030.
Given that older adults make up more of the UK’s labour force and the severe consequences employers face for negligence or non-compliance, understanding and addressing ageism must be a high priority.
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